What It Takes to Make It in Small Business: 10 Success Stories

Actionable Advice About How to Start Your Own Small Business

Small businesses continue to be the backbone of the American economy.

Government data shows this is still the case. Since 2014, the U.S. Small Business Administration reports, two in three new jobs created have come from small businesses.

And each small business tells an important story — several stories, actually. There is the story of what event, what opportunity, inspired that company’s founder to open up shop in the first place. There is the story of how that company made its very first sale. Or hired its first employee. Or crossed its first revenue goal.

Each of those stories is one of perseverance, hope and hard work, what we call determined optimism.

If you’re one of the millions of people who dream of opening your own business, or if you have already taken those first steps, this post is for you. Below, we will take a look at 10 important important elements of entrepreneurship, from the administrative details of incorporation to building and improving a sales process.

Through each of these 10 lenses, we will tell a small business success story and give you resources that will help you realize your dream of entrepreneurship. In doing so, we will explore:

  1. Courage as a fundamental requirement of entrepreneurship with blogger Ashley Wilson;
  2. financing and crowdfunding with Hobo Hammocks;
  3. time management, productivity and entrepreneurial self-expression with Baby Jives & Co;
  4. the delicate balancing act of entrepreneurship as a side project with Moon and June;
  5. equity and questions of ownership vs. control with EATWHATEVER;
  6. modern marketing with Solly Baby;
  7. sales and how to build strong relationships with customers with ArtBinder;
  8. how to form strategic partnerships with Fetch;
  9. growth and the constraints of physical space via the modern version of the garage startup — the American microbrewery;
  10. hiring and managing employees with Aptive Environmental.

Use the list above to navigate directly to the aspect of small business ownership you would like to learn more about. Or, if you’re simply inspired by stories of entrepreneurial success, you can just start reading from the top.


How Ashley Wilson Marshalled the Discipline Necessary to Turn Blogging Into a Full-Time Job

Plenty of us have thought about how we could channel our passions into some kind of online presence — a blog, an Instagram account, a YouTube channel — that we could then build up into a supplementary income stream or into a full-on business.

Plenty of people already do it. Case in point: Alyssa J., a high school student in Canada, literally gets tens of thousands of viewers every day to watch her make slime on Instagram. Her DIY slime-creation book will hit shelves just in time for the holidays this year.

But what holds so many would-be bloggers and social media stars back is not the lack of an idea or the inability to pull together an audience. It’s commitment. It’s finding the time to make three slime tutorials per day. It’s having the safety net in place so that if your idea fails you don’t have to sell the farm.

For interior designer Ashley Wilson, a major challenge was finding the courage to make that leap. She believed she could take her blog, At Home With Ashley, which teaches readers how to style their homes professionally on a budget, to the next level. The idea and the strategy were already in place. Ashley had been a successful, widely read blogger for nearly a decade.

What she needed was to get out from under her 80-hour-per-week job so she could dedicate herself to blogging. This was ultimately a financial problem, so Ashley set a couple of goals for herself: Pay off debt and build an emergency reserve of cash.

And even when she achieved those two admirable goals, she still had to make the leap into committed, full-time entrepreneurship. That required some intense introspection. “A few years ago I sat down and dreamed about what my life could be — more travel, more quality time with my family, doing what I love, and teaching others how to have a home they love is all on that list,” she tells us. “I worked hard to make that a reality. It is still a work in progress, but I am so much closer than I used to be!”

All of those great blogs where the writing feels casually accessible, yet the ideas are so well thought-out and practical? This is all the unseen hard work and discipline that go into making that happen.

Resources For Bloggers Who Want to Make That Leap

  • There are plenty of sites out there that offer courses and coaching sessions on how to find your motivation as an entrepreneur, but Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art is probably the best place to start.
  • If you think Instagram is the best place to build your audience, Ashley has an ebook, How to Make Video For Instagram, that will show you industry best practices for shooting and posting video there.
  • For aspiring bloggers, check out the free course HubSpot and General Assembly put together on how to start a successful blog.
  • For aspiring YouTubers, check out Hootsuite’s guide to launching a YouTube channel in 14 days.


How Dental School Student Jake Andersen Tripled his Funding Goals with an Irresistible Elevator Pitch

Opportunity knocks at the strangest times. And while there probably is never going to be an absolute stars-in-alignment perfect moment to pursue your dreams of entrepreneurship, we have to admit that the summer between Year 1 and Year 2 of dentistry school is an odd time to launch a business.

And yet, here was Salt Lake City resident Jake Andersen, a guy of several different talents and passions, asking people on Kickstarter to pre-order his hammocks in May 2015. The crowdfunding campaign was successful, too. He reached his goal of $5,000 raised after just two weeks. By the end of the 30-day campaign, he had raised more than $17,000.

What made Jake’s campaign so successful? His story. Jake’s company, Hobo Hammocks, works with Rescue Mission in Salt Lake City to donate a nutritious, hearty meal to a homeless person for every hammock purchased. He came up with the business model after spending some time trying to truly understand the challenges that homeless people face. Jake even went so far as to live out of his hammock for a while.

Whether you’re appealing to venture capitalists or customers in a pre-order campaign, your best asset is a story that clearly demonstrates:

  1. the inspiration that led you to founding your company,
  2. your motivation to see that mission through to the end.

That second point came up time and time again when we spoke to Jake. He tells us he spent 14 hours each day promoting and connecting with customers during his Kickstarter campaign. “I loved every second of it,” he says. “I hated going to bed because I had more things I wanted to do to market my kickstarter and to evolve my product. Passion leads to work.”

In several of the stories found here, we discuss entrepreneurship as a form of self-expression. In no case is that clearer than with Hobo Hammocks. The company — its mission, its marketing, its operations — are an extension of who Jake is.

So, if you can live your story, if you can embody the mission that inspired you to create your business in the first place, and if you can communicate these things to other people, you set yourself up for success.

“There are a lot of amazing people out there,” Jake says. “Find them. People care about your story as much as they care about your product. Share something that is a reflection of your personality and your values, and the backers will come.”

Resources For Securing Funding

  • There are several available source of funding for small businesses. If you’re planning to go the Kickstarter route, start with the site’s own Creator Handbook to learn how to tell your story in a way that compels support from other users.
  • Also, Joanna Wiebe at CopyHackers has a great post that breaks down what storytelling elements worked for certain campaigns — and where other campaigns failed.
  • If you plan to seek investment from traditional lending institutions such as banks, the loan officers will want to see a business plan. Santa Clara University has a helpful guide that walks readers through each element of a business plan. Further, the SBA has a worksheet where you can sketch out your business idea before turning it into an official plan. Finally, ACCA has four sample business plans worth bookmarking for reference.
  • If you plan to reach out to investors, you will have to pitch them at some point. Your starting point is to craft an elevator pitch, which explains in about 60 seconds what your business does. It’s important to have this pitch ready to go when networking in person, and Alyssa Gregory at The Balance can show you exactly how to craft your pitch.
  • If you actually get the chance to formally pitch investors, you’ll want to have a pitch deck, which is just a slideshow that structures and accompanies your presentation. Entrepreneur Chance Barnett has one of the best guides you will find (with examples) on how to put together a pitch deck.


How Jahje Ives at Baby Jives Makes Room in Her Life to be Creative and to Get Work Done

As we were doing the research for this piece, a recurring theme emerged: Entrepreneurship is often an act of self-expression. From that perspective, we can think of starting a business in the same way we think of singing, or writing a novel or doing Shakespeare in the park.

Entrepreneurs must practice like singers. They must rehearse like actors. They must refine their craft like novelists.

But how does the entrepreneur find the time to practice and refine when there are orders to fill, customers to satisfy, marketing materials to print off and accounting obligations to keep track of?

We reached out to Jahje Ives in Philadelphia for answers. Jahje is an artist (she has a Master of Fine Arts and a background in painting and sculpting), a mother of two and an entrepreneur. When she was pregnant with her first child, she went looking for an heirloom-quality mobile to decorate his room. Unsuccessful in her search, Jahje made one herself, and that’s how her company Baby Jives & Co. was born.

“That idea of bringing fine art into the world of children’s décor is actually something that drives much of my work,” she tells us. “I often think of the items we make for Baby Jives Co. as a child’s first artwork that they will hopefully grow up with.”

Think about what a delicate balancing act is required to make a product like that successful. First, Jahje needs the training and vision to design the product itself. Then, she must shape it into something that will appeal to both children and their parents (if you want to think in terms of corporate R&D, these are two of the major stakeholders). Then, she needs to build processes that allow her to fill orders and meet the demand she discovers in the market. Only then can she do the actual work of production — crafting the mobiles, swaddles and works of art she sells.

Work like that calls for long stretches of uninterrupted thought, something any parent who has ever tried to work from home knows is in short supply. Jahje shared with us four things she does to create that space in her day:

1. Draw Strict Boundaries Around Your Productive Time

“Running a business from home means that I often feel like I should be able to do it all with everyone around me, but I’ve actually found that if I let everything spill together it just gets too chaotic. So I’ve set up times that I work without interruption and then times when I work with my kids running in and out of the studio and then times when I am just focused on family.”

2. Prioritize

Do the work that will have the biggest impact on your business first. Use the boundaries you’ve set to protect this time. This was actually a lesson that productivity expert and author Charles Duhigg shared with Jahje in a 2016 segment on the Today show. You can watch that clip here.

3. Ask For Help — Even Hire Help If You Can

Jahje tells us she hired a studio manager to run the show in the afternoons while she picks her kids up from school then takes them to the playground. It’s an amazing relief to know you’ve built such solid business processes that you can step away when you need to without having things break down.

4. Don’t Feel Guilty About Taking Time For Yourself

Everyone at some point feels they probably could be spending more time with their children, with their partner, with school, with their craft, with whatever. But there are only 24 hours in a day, and we must all prioritize to get things done. Those nagging feelings don’t go away; we just have to learn to manage them. Still, it’s not easy. Jahje tells us that sending her kids to school, now that they’re old enough, “is actually one of the best things I’ve done to give up some of my mom guilt about taking time for myself.”

Productivity and Time Management Resources

  • First, go back and watch Jahje’s Today show clip if you already haven’t. It will show you how to focus your energies via to-do lists, and then how to prioritize your efforts. The tips come straight from Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit.
  • We’ve met many entrepreneurs who swear by David Allen’s bestselling book Getting Things Done. The book introduces and lays out a holistic framework for working more quickly and efficiently.
  • For a productivity upgrade that you can implement right now, check out the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks work down into focused 25-minute intervals with breaks in between. Writer Kat Boogaard tried out the technique in a piece for The Muse, and after some initial discomfort with its stop-start pacing, she says it made her more productive and left her feeling better at the end of her day.


How High School Student Marley Flandro Turned a Hobby Into a Thriving Side Business

Teenage entrepreneurship isn’t anything new. Every high school has its budding businesspeople, whether that’s the freshman who buys wholesale candy bars and sells them out of her backpack (prices marked up, of course) or the senior who’s summer lawn mowing business grew so quickly that he had to hire his friends.

What’s different today is the scope of opportunities available to young entrepreneurs. After all, you just need an email address and a PayPal account to open up a shop online. And if you can find the time to fill orders between homework and extracurriculars, you can build a profitable business.

That’s exactly what Marley Flandro has done. At the age of 10, she learned learned to sew. By 12, she was making zipper bags — small bags made of decorative fabrics, great for holding school supplies or makeup — and selling them at local markets and on Etsy. Now 15, her company Moon and June has filled dozens of orders from around the country.

We reached out to get an idea for how she makes times for her side business while maintaining what is essentially a full-time commitment of being a student, dancer and cheerleader. “Being a young entrepreneur is super hard,” she tells us. “I’ll tell you that right now. My biggest piece of advice would be to stick with your business theme and make sure you love it! I have seen many kids start little businesses but never have the perseverance to continue growing, because once you do, it’s all worth it.”

There is an important lesson in there that many entrepreneurs — teenagers and adults — miss, and that’s finding congruence. The business you start is inherently an extension of yourself and your passions. If you’re chasing customers with whom you can’t empathize, or if you’re doing work that you don’t love, you limit your ability to grow.

As for Marley, she’s got plans to expand Moon and June. Now that she has real proof that customers love her zipper bags, she wants to get them in front of more people — though she can’t commit to any timelines right now. School takes priority.

“My dream is to expand my little company into something big, and I’m hoping to get there one day! I would love a local manufacturer and my products in local stores and boutiques. Since my bags have such great uses for everyday people, I would love to share them with new customers.”

Resources For Getting Your Side Project Off the Ground

  • If you have a craft that you think could make sales on Etsy, the best place to start is Etsy’s own Seller Handbook. As a supplemental resource, have a look at Sarah Peterson’s guide at Unsettle.org as to how she made $5,000 in four months on Etsy by selling custom paper goodie bags for weddings.
  • If you’re a developer in search of an idea for a side project, check out Una Kravets’ guide at Shopify for conceptualizing and getting these kinds of projects off the ground.
  • And if you’re a veteran side project initiator who struggles to balance work time and family time, Edwin Klesman at Simple Programmer has a guide you should read.


How Jacqui Rosshandler at EATWHATEVER Restructured the Company’s Ownership So She Could Realize its Potential

Many aspects of running a business have changed in recent years. One truth, however, has remained the same since the very first business on Earth was founded: Cash is king.

Even when a company has a great product, a great team behind it and a great sales process, a lack of cashflow can doom that company. This is precisely the kind of doom that entrepreneur Jacqui Rosshandler was facing in 2012, when her company EATWHATEVER began to run low on funds.

Her company sells a product available in many countries — a breath freshener that is ingested to tackle the problem at the source, the stomach — but with a few twists. First, EATWHATEVER’s breath freshening process has a second step: After you swallow the gel capsule, you chase it with a mint that you hold in your mouth until it melts. Further, all of the products are vegan, organic and gluten-free.

Oh, and they work beautifully.

In the late 2000s, Jacqui raised $60,000 to start her company, she tells The New York Times. Sales grew steadily as she introduced the EATWHATEVER product to retailers, but they didn’t grow quickly enough. When cash began to run dry, she had a few options:

  1. Get a loan. She spoke to a few banks, but she was turned down in no small part because Jacqui wasn’t an American citizen (she’s from Australia).
  2. Ask friends and family. She told the NYT this was a no-go because she’d done that when she raised her seed capital.
  3. Seek venture capital. This was also unsuccessful.
  4. Sell part of the business to a partner. Arthur T. Shorin, an investor and former confectionary company executive, spoke with Jacqui and offered her an initial sum of $250,000 … in exchange for three-quarters of her company.

Plenty of entrepreneurs would balk at that proposal. After all, how many people would be willing to cede control of the company they’d spent years building. On the other hand, isn’t it worth it to keep the dream alive?

Ultimately, the two came to an agreement, and EATWHATEVER flourished under Arthur’s stewardship. The company has also launched a product line for dogs, Woofmints. One of the big reasons for this success is Jacqui’s understanding that she was gaining a partner in this negotiation, not an adversary.

“I immediately realized Arthur was very smart,” she told the NYT in a follow-up piece. “I figured he knew the candy business. He grew up in those factories knowing every part of the business. But I think most important, when I met other people he worked with — his accountant, buyers — I discovered that they’d been working with him for 40 years. People who have a bad reputation in business generally don’t have the same people around them for many, many years.”

Equity, Ownership and Business Structure Resources

  • Startups and established companies both get faced with the question of how much control they should hand over to investors in exchange for needed funds. This is a personal decision, ultimately: Each business owner will have a different threshold for what he or she is willing to give up. Murray Newlands at Forbes and BJ Lackland at Fortune have helpful articles on this topic.
  • If you’re wrestling with business structures in general — whether to incorporate as an LLC or as a C Corp, for example — the SBA has a great guide on choosing the right business structure for your company.
  • FindLaw also has a huge library of articles that can help you understand business structures, liability and tax obligations.


How Elle Rowley at Solly Baby Found the Energy to Push Through Tough Times — And Found a Community of Supporters Along the Way

All business owners face initial struggles. Maybe an initial assumption they made about their business model gets proven false, and they have to change course. Maybe after the initial glow of launching a business, the reality of the actual work required feels daunting.

For Elle Rowley, whose company Solly Baby sells infant wraps that let parents hold their young children close while remaining comfortable (and stylish!), that initial struggle was the realization that entrepreneurship brings with it a real sink-or-swim dynamic. “A year into the business I developed crippling anxiety,” she told Bossladies magazine.

“My husband, Jared, was working on another startup that wasn’t doing well, and Solly Baby still hadn’t taken off, so we were strapped financially, living with his parents and our two little ones.”

That’s a lonely feeling. Even when you’re surrounded by loved ones, having others count on the success of the business you are trying to build can create immense pressure. Elle and Jared agreed to prioritize their own selves — including their physical, mental and emotional well-being — then create their own definitions of success that were congruent with their own capabilities.

No overextending or needlessly stressing themselves over a business. There are higher priorities.

This change had two mutually reinforcing benefits. First, Elle reports that prioritizing her own well-being helped her feel like new again. Second, as a consequence of this intentional introspection, she was able to narrow the focus of her branding. This let Solly Baby communicate its values and aesthetic in a way that resonated with young parents.

With this renewed focus, Elle tells us she was able to approach her market with a clear message, connect with influential people on social media, and simply make connections with customers and fans. Her quarter-million Instagram followers are a testament to how effective that philosophy has been.

And for Elle personally, the community she’s built has created an important feedback loop for her as an entrepreneur. “I really get strength through the positive experiences of our customers so literally dozens of times, when we have been at a particularly sticky point in the business, I have gone back to emails and letters I have received from our community, letting us know how our product has positively influenced their lives as a parent,” she tells us. “Not being formally trained in business, that encouragement means a lot to me when I start to self-doubt.”

Resources For Community-Building and Modern Marketing

  • Writer Jeff Goins has a great interview at the Buffer blog about what tools and strategies he’s used to build a lively, supportive community around his work. “Share a struggle, some pain point you’ve having,” Goins recommends. “Be vulnerable in an uncomfortable way. People connect with humanity.”
  • Branding, which will be a part of your marketing, is something many businesses do poorly and very few do well. Take Goins’ advice above, and then spend a Saturday morning going over Bond Street’s How to Build a Brand guide. The post is as comprehensive as it needs to be, but if you make some notes as you read through you will have an excellent cheat sheet to guide your own branding efforts.
  • And if, like Elle, you’re feeling overwhelmed by your upstart business, get your hands on a copy of Seth Godin’s classic book The Dip. It honestly examines how entrepreneurs can recognize whether they should throw in the towel or push through to find future success.


How ArtBinder is Upending the Art-Buying World By Building Customer Relationships the Old-Fashioned Way

Customer relationships are everything for small businesses.

Granted, maybe you are going to found the next Coca-Cola or the next Apple, and in 20 years you’ll be able to make sales off of the strength of your brand. For everyone else, though, sales is a matter of understanding a potential buyer’s needs, then cultivating a relationship that eventually allows you to present your own product or service as a solution to that buyer’s problems.

Think about someone who owns or manages an art gallery. They have expensive inventories to maintain and track, and they need to present those inventories to interested art buyers in a manner that is both beautiful and functional. Until 2010, that largely meant putting together ad hoc binders to lug around to art fairs.

That’s precisely what then-24-year-old Alexandra Chemla was doing when she had the idea for ArtBinder, a platform that would bring inventory management, presentation, sales and delivery together into a single iPad-based platform. “I was spending hours and hours working on these binders we use for the art fairs,” she told The New York Times, recounting her experience as a gallery assistant in Manhattan. “I could make the whole process easier with an app.”

An old truism in business is if you can demonstrably save someone money and time, you’ve got yourself a customer. But that’s not necessarily the case in the art world, where the ways of doing businesses don’t reflect the norms of Main Street, or Wall Street, or Silicon Valley.

In the art world, you have to schmooze. ArtBinder’s sales team does this at art fairs around the world. ArtBinder’s head of sales, Peter Muller, tells SalesforceIQ that his company goes to great lengths to track of which fairs current and potential customers will be attending. “We can tag each client with the fairs they are going to in a custom field,” he says. “Then, all we have to do is filter on that value to find out which leads will be at the next art fair and can reach out in advance to build the relationship.”

The sales team goes the extra mile to connect with customers, too. Though the team isn’t big, its members collectively can speak Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. That’s the kind of focused sales strategy a niche startup needs to thrive.

And after just seven years in business, ArtBinder can claim more than 500 accounts, more than 4,000 users, and 84 million-plus sheets of paper saved by having customers go digital.

Tools and Resources for Selling as a Small Business

  • If you’re totally new to the sales world, a good place to start is the SBA’s 30-minute course on small business sales. This is one of the best and objective overviews of sales as a discipline that you will find.
  • Once you have the basics down, head to the bookstore for the advanced course. The reading materials consist of three books:
  • A good way to structure your sales processes is with a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. CRMs organize all of your customer intel in one place, and the best tools let your entire team collaborate so that anyone can get instant visibility into where a specific customer is in the sales process. HubSpot CRM, SalesforceIQ and Insightly are reliable options that won’t break the bank.
  • Finally, you will want to organize all of your sales tasks as a project manager would. This keeps workflows clean, efficient and manageable. A small team would be fine with the free versions of Asana or Trello.


How Adam Steinberg at Fetch is Breathing Life Into an Old Industry Through Better Service and Smart Partnerships

Sometimes, failure — not necessity — is the mother of all invention. Or, at least failure can create space for a good idea to thrive. This was an important lesson for Adam Steinberg and Chris Glace, co-founders of an Atlanta-based startup called Fetch Trucks.

Fetch was born of failure. In 2015, Adam and Chris were inspired to build a startup that would draw upon their backgrounds in digital marketing. “It took off like a pile of bricks,” Adam tells Stefanie Diaz at the Mastermind Your Launch podcast. “… Looking back on it, I think we just did what was logical for us. We didn’t really look at, ‘OK, what’s a problem we have that we’re super excited about at this exact moment to solve?’ And I think that really set us back a bit.”

As Adam and Chris were re-tooling their plans, Chris in passing described what a harrowing experience he’d had one weekend while trying to rent a truck to help him pick up some bigger purchases from a local home and garden store. Intrigued, Adam started poking at the experience of renting a truck — calling a company, confirming a pickup date, arriving at the rental office only to find that the truck wasn’t available when he had reserved it.

Now, the duo had a real problem that they were excited to solve: How to make renting a truck something other than a nightmare. Adam and Chris imagined simple, on-demand booking instead. That’s not a completely novel idea (this is, after all, what Uber and Lyft have done to taxi services), but it was still missing from any truck rental customer experiences they had found. Thus, Fetch was born.

But growth sometimes must come incrementally when you’re trying to upend the way an entire industry does business. That’s why Fetch is currently just available in Atlanta. Adam and Chris want to make sure the business model works as they intend it to and is stable before rolling it out to other cities.

A big component of that stability is in the alliances and partnerships Fetch has formed. The strategy makes sense: People need to rent a truck because they’ve just bought something big, whether that’s a piece of furniture or a new house. So, the Fetch team realized that partnering with another company up the supply chain gives them a natural stream of customers, and it solves another business’ delivery question.

Extra Space Storage is a local partner of Fetch, for example. “When you rent a storage unit at Extra Space Storage, you can immediately jump into a Fetch truck in the parking lot to start your move in,” Adam says. “That’s the customer experience we want to achieve — no waiting and no friction.”

Resources For Building Strategic Partnerships

  • Marketing MO has an excellent post on how small businesses can identify potential strategic partners.
  • Then, Goutham Bhadri at Marketing Samurai breaks down the types of strategic partnerships you can cultivate: Distribution partnerships, promotion partnerships and social partnerships.
  • Finally, Greenleaf Book Group CEO Tanya Hall has four useful tips for nurturing that relationship at Inc.


How a Pair of Midwestern Breweries Embraced Their Garage Roots As Their Companies Grew

The garage startup is one of the classic American success stories.

For a few generations now, kids have picked up guitars and drumsticks and dreamt of stardom as they worked out songs in the garage. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak famously built the first Apple computer in a Los Altos garage.

Since the beginning of the 2010s, though, one of the fastest-growing types of small business in America has been the craft brewery. For the last half decade, craft breweries have been popping up nationwide by the hundreds annually.

And so many of those breweries’ founders got their starts in a garage, brewing ales and lagers and sours in 15-gallon batches.

That’s where Chris Harris of Black Frog Brewery — in Holland, Ohio, near Toledo — got his start. He had a full-time job elsewhere, but he long spent Wednesdays and Sundays in his garage brewing. And throughout the rest of the week, he was talking to local bars about getting one of his handles on the tap.

It wasn’t easy going for Chris, even though he’s the only brewer in town. One big obstacle? Getting a permit to house a commercial brewery in a garage. “He knew the licensing process was going to be even more involved for turning his garage into a legit brewery, but he studied up and went to work,” writes Jess Baker, editor in chief at CraftBeer.com. “When the state licensing worker showed up, he took one look at Harris’ garage and said, ‘I don’t think this is going to happen. I gotta contact my manager. This is the first time I’ve seen a brewery in a garage.’

“But after a few more rounds of modifications to the garage and conversations with the state, they gave his garage brewery a green light — Black Frog Brewery was born.”

And like many successful small businesses, Chris and Black Frog Brewery have since moved out of the garage and into a commercial brewery space.

Down in Covington, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, Evan Rouse at Braxton Brewing Co. opens the doors of his brewery’s tap room to innovators, creatives and budding entrepreneurs of all types.

Rouse, who started brewing beer in the family garage at the perfectly legal age of 16, empathizes with people who have more dreams than they have space. So, from Tuesday through Friday, Braxton’s taproom opens bright and early at 8 a.m.

“This isn’t just about beer,” Leah Zipperstein writes at Cincinnati Refined. “It’s about a mentality. And by opening up at 8am, Braxton’s giving folks who might not have a normal office a space to foster their own next big idea.”

Resources for Entrepreneurs Who Need a Little More Space

  • If you need a dedicated office space away from home either periodically or regularly, there are shared office and coworking options. To find a location near you, check out Find Workspaces, ShareDesk and Coworker.
  • If you live in New York, Chicago, Denver or Austin, Deskpass makes it easy to reserve a space whenever you need it.
  • We offer business self storage at more than 1,500 locations throughout the country.


How David Royce Builds Multi-Million Dollar Businesses by Hiring Smartly and Rewarding Employees Who Take Initiative

Hiring can feel like such a challenge for small business entrepreneurs. On the one hand, how do you find someone you can trust to help you build your dream? On the other hand … well, you could probably use another hand to get things done.

Hiring and managing other people is both an art and a science. Fortunately for David Royce, he was able to get a crash course in two important aspects of business — hiring and sales — early on. Karsten Strauss at Forbes has the story:

“In 2004 Brigham Young University student David Royce was working his third summer as a salesman and recruiter for Moxie, a Texas pest-control company. Royce had learned the art of persuading strangers as a Mormon missionary going door-to-door in Panama, and he was good at it. So good that, while still in college, he’d written Moxie’s sales training manual and been named a vice president of the company.”

With some encouragement from the owner of Moxie, a pest-control company, Royce embarked on a career as a business owner. His first venture was to license the name Moxie and open up shop in Southern California. He grew that into a 100-person, $10-million-per-year business and sold it.

David’s next company, EcoFirst, which featured many of the managers he’d hired at Moxie, grew to 400 employees and $24 million per year. He sold that business, then grew an even bigger company, Alterra, using many of the same strategies and leadership team members. That company sold for an $178 million, Strauss reports.

Now, David is growing his fourth company, Aptive Environmental, in the pest control space. We reached out to learn more about his formula for success. Fair warning: his advice is deceptively simple and straightforward. It’s also incredibly wise.

1. Go Find People Who Can Do the Job Well

Here’s where David’s experience as a missionary comes into play. Aptive’s company headquarters are in Provo, Utah, where there are tens of thousands of college students with door-to-door missionary experience. So, he hires them as part of his seasonal sales force. In 2016, Aptive had a team of 1,200 college-age sales reps going door-to-door in 23 states.

2. Reward Initiative, Performance and Loyalty

Many of David’s managers and leaders have been promoted from within, not hired externally. That’s not simply because of those internal candidates’ track records but, as he says, “because they understand Aptive’s unique culture and mission.”

Culture is a big deal for David, and he takes steps every day to reinforce it. Case in point: Aptive promotes innovative and critical thinking across all team members. And he rewards what he calls “moments of genius” by paying employees bonuses — sometimes thousands of dollars — for any ideas that get implemented across the organization.

3. Rally Your Team Around a Set of Shared Values

Ultimately, what keeps people coming to work every day isn’t the paycheck or the prestige of their job titles. It’s the sense of purpose they feel from a job well done. And they measure “well done” against the company’s core values — what you stand for, what you want to achieve, what skills and ideas are rewarded through bonuses and promotions.

For Aptive, those core values include going the extra mile to do a job well, living by a moral compass of fairness and integrity, educating oneself every day, being committed and passionate, building a culture around positivity and loyalty, and practicing gratitude. Enunciate and live your own company’s values, and your team will reflect them back to you.

These tips apply no matter the size of your business. Whether you’re hiring your first assistant or a nationwide platoon of seasonal sales staff, this is the essential formula for hiring and hanging onto the people who will help build your dream.

Hiring Resources for Small Businesses

  • A tip from David: Zappos founder Tony Hsieh wrote a book in 2010 called Delivering Happiness about how to foster company culture. That book has had a special influence on the growth of EcoFirst, Alterra and Aptive.
  • The Wall Street Journal has an excellent guide, How to Hire Your First Employee.
  • Employee scheduling app When I Work has a comprehensive post titled The Complete Guide To Human Resources For Small Business that’s worth bookmarking.
  • For handling administrative tasks such time-off request tracking, benefits packages and performance reviews, some helpful tools worth looking into include Kin and Zoho People. Expect to pay between $2 and $5 per month per employee.

So whether you’re opening an online store, starting a consultancy from home, test-brewing recipes in your garage or drawing up plans for a company that could potentially hire thousands of people, entrepreneurship takes guts. And strategic thinking. And that potent combination of grit and optimism that helps everyone overcome life’s challenges.

We are ready to lend a hand throughout every step of your entrepreneurial journey. If you need to change locations temporarily or make some room for your business to grow, we have self storage locations across the country, whenever you need them.

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